Mumbai: Vilasrao Deshmukh, who passed away today in a Chennai hospital, was the second President of the Mumbai Cricket Association to die in office after S K Wankhede in 1987.
Like Wankhede, who was MCA`s president when the new stadium named after him was built in record time in 1974, Deshmukh was also a former chief minister of Maharashtra.
Deshmukh`s contribution to the redevelopment of the Wankhede Stadium ahead of the 2011 World Cup final was recalled today by senior association official Prof Ratnakar Shetty after condoling his demise.
"We at Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) are shocked to hear that our president Vilasrao Deshmukh is no more. It was only on 20th July that he chaired the AGM of MCA. Deshmukh was the vice president of MCA for two years from 2009-2011 and in July 2011, he was elected as the president," the MCA vice-president told reporters here.
"At that time when he was vice president the redevelopment (of Wankhede) was the focus of MCA because we had been allotted the final match of the World Cup. There was always the pressure on us whether the work will be completed and we would be prepared in time.
"Even when he was not an office bearer of Mumbai Cricket Association, Deshmukh was always there to help the association whether it was the setting up of the MCA recreation centre or redevelopment of the Wankhede stadium," added Shetty.
"(Later) I was closely associated with him while working with (previous MCA chief) Mr (Sharad) Pawar during his (Deshmukh`s) tenure (as MCA`s vice president). During the redevelopment (of Wankhede), we faced lots of problems in various quarters and every time he stood by us and assured that the work was completed.
"In those days we used to be regularly in touch with him, seeking his assistance. Whenever we needed he was always there to help us and assure that the final is staged in the best possible manner.
"Whether it was getting the BKC ground for MCA or getting that facility up at various stages, he came forward and helped us," he recalled.
Shetty revealed that though he was unwell during the AGM, still Deshmukh asked MCA`s two joint secretaries -- Nitin Dalal and Dr P V Shetty -- to meet him the next day over the matter of developing a plot of land in distant Badlapur.
"Very recently after the AGM on 20th, he called the two joint secretaries (Shetty and Dalal) and sent them to Badlapur. One of the major complaints against the MCA from central suburbs is that there is no good playground available beyond Thane.
"He was always keen that he should also create facilities (for cricket) like what Mr Pawar did and had identified that central suburbs did not have any facilities. He was on the lookout for grounds in central suburbs. He had plans, identified one plot in Badlapur and felt that MCA can create a good facility," Shetty said.
"He felt that more facilities, indoor facilities, should be created in those areas so that they don`t have to travel far and get the same facilities that exists in Bandra. He wanted one in Navi Mumbai and one in far off Thane. It`s unfortunate that he is no more.
"It`s very unfortunate that we have lost him. A good administrator, I would say, and he was keen to do something. I would say his passing away is a big loss for MCA.
"At the BCCI`s May Working Committee meeting, it was Mr Deshmukh who initiated the move to add the widows of Test cricketers in the list of those who are receiving the Board`s gratis scheme. On behalf of the managing committee of Mumbai Cricket Association, all the member clubs as also the cricketing fraternity, we condole his demise," he said.
Asked who would take over the reins in the interim period till next year`s elections, Shetty said it will be done as per the MCA`s constitution.
Other sources revealed that the managing committee will take decision on who, from within the committee and office bearers, would head the MCA till next year`s elections.
Being the senior vice president, Shetty appears to be the front-runner to don the mantle. Vijay Patil is the other vice president of the association.